Phones might soon not come with batteries at all, as researchers have developed the world’s first battery-less cell phone that can do all the normal functions of a phone, all without a built-in battery, instead using only radio waves and light as energy sources.
The battery-less cell phone consumes zero power and harvests energy from ambient radio signals and light. One of the biggest power-consuming processes that take place in a cell phone is the process that converts analogue signals into digital signals. The research team at the Washington University removed this process and replaced it with a system that absorbs tiny vibrations in the phone’s microphone or speaker that happen when a person speaks or takes a call.
Prototype of the phone was developed using just off-the-shelf components that use a combination of wireless power and tiny solar chargers. All the phone can do is send and receive voice signals and drive a pair of headphones. The phone neither has a screen nor does it have memory. When the device is in a call, the user must push a button to talk through the phone. In terms of sustenance, the phone relies on a base station that relays its signal to the cellular network, such as Skype. This is where the signals come in and its vibrations are harvested and used to power the device.
In terms of getting this project onto the mainstream, the technology can either be licensed to existing smartphone makers who can use it in their devices for when emergency calls are required, even when the phone is out of battery. Another way the project can also be applied is to build on the existing prototype and manufacture a bare-bones phone that can be used by those whose daily drivers are out of juice. This phone, while not needing to be recharged, can still make calls and also send text messages.
The goal of the project, based on the researchers, is to create a fully functional smartphone using exactly this method of power. In fact, in future iterations, the phone could use Kindle’s low-power display technology and that a low-powered camera could also be added to the list of features of the phone. The phone, in its current state, looks like the inside of a cell phone and is not usable yet, but the concept and the research opens new doors towards better innovation to support more improvements in newer versions.